LOS ANGELES — Lance McCullers Jr. and the Houston Astros couldn’t quiet the hecklers at Dodger Stadium, but they silenced the Los Angeles hitters.
McCullers threw 6 2/3 impressive innings in a 3-0 victory Tuesday night before the largest crowd in the majors this season — 52,692 fans, many who came to hammer the Houston players.
“I enjoyed the reception and felt comfortable. There was a lot of booing but I enjoyed it,” McCullers said. “I enjoy pitching in games and environments like this. It is the most fun I have had pitching in a while.”
The Dodger faithful had waited a long time to let José Altuve, Carlos Correa and the Astros know just how they felt about possibly being cheated out of a 2017 World Series title.
The jeering started early as the crowd in the upper deck and bleachers shouted “Cheaters!” at Houston players during warmups. Fans threw back Astros home runs in batting practice.
The booing and chants only got louder, and multiple fights broke out in the stands, but the fans made more noise than the LA bats. Houston pitchers gave up just five singles and struck out 13 as the AL West leaders ended a two-game skid.
This was the first chance Dodgers fans had to unload on the Astros in person at Chavez Ravine since their sign-stealing scandal was revealed late in 2019. Houston beat LA in the 2017 World Series, winning Game 7 at Dodger Stadium.
“You can tell fans are still unhappy about what happened and it made it a fun atmosphere tonight. Unfortunately we didn’t win for them,” Dodgers catcher Will Smith said.
A half-dozen inflatable trash cans got tossed on the field. The Astros banged on real trash cans to signal opponents’ pitchers in their scam.
Michael Brantley’s RBI double in the fourth inning gave Houston a 1-0 lead before Yordan Alvarez’s two-run homer over the wall in right center off Victor González provided some much-needed insurance.
“That gives us breathing room, especially when you score late like that in a close game,” manager Dusty Baker said. “Then you can start counting the outs after that. It puts us in a position where they need a multi-run inning to get back into it.”
McCullers (9-2) struck out nine and allowed four hits with three walks. He started Game 7 of the 2017 Series.
Ryne Stanek retired the side in order in the ninth for his second save.
Walker Buehler (11-2) threw a career-high 115 pitches in six innings. He was charged with one run on five hits with five strikeouts and three walks.
“Momentum wasn’t able to carry us to get the bats going,” Buehler said. “No matter how emotional this series is at the end of the day this is a good baseball team and they played well tonight.”
The Dodgers left 10 runners on base but had only one reach third. Los Angeles had runners at the corners with two outs in the eighth inning before Chas McCormick struck out Cody Bellinger to end the inning.
Martin Maldonado opened the Houston third with a double to the wall in right-center field. He advanced to third on a two-out wild pitch by Buehler and scored when Brantley lined a double into the right-field corner.
ALTUVE, CORREA GET LOUDEST BOOS
The loud booing began when Houston’s lineup was introduced, and the derisive chants soon followed. The first of six inflatable trash cans came flying out of the right-field stands during the bottom of the first inning.
When Correa hit a foul ball into the first base stands, the souvenir was thrown back onto the diamond — and the fan who chucked it was tossed by security.
Houston visited Dodger Stadium last year when crowds weren’t allowed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Altuve, Correa and the Astros have been heckled throughout the season at ballparks throughout the country, but not when it was played at the capacity that they experienced for the opener of this two-game series.
The vociferous boos didn’t affect Altuve, who had a pair of hits. Correa was 0 for 3, including two strikeouts.
Only four players on Houston’s roster who played in that 2017 World Series were active — Altuve, Correa, Yuli Gurriel and McCullers. Fans didn’t boo players who weren’t on the roster.
Los Angeles had six active players remaining Austin Barnes, Cody Bellinger, Kenley Jansen, Corey Seager, Chris Taylor and Justin Turner.
“Every single person in this clubhouse gets booed every time we walk on a field and gets called cheaters and everything like that. ... We endure it, take it head on,” said Astros reliever Blake Taylor, who came on to strike out Max Muncy with runners at first and second to end the seventh inning.
Mookie Betts, who was starting at second base for only the second time this season and 17th time in his eight-year career, made a diving leap in shallow right while playing the shift to rob Brantley of a hit in the fifth inning.
Astros: Gurriel was scratched from the lineup before the game due to neck stiffness. ... 3B Alex Bregman (left quad strain) led off and had a double for Triple-A Sugar Land during a rehab appearance Tuesday night. He could be activated when Houston opens a six-game homestand against Minnesota this weekend.
Dodgers: RHP Edwin Uceta was placed on the 10-day injured list for the second time this season due to a right back strain. RHP Brusdar Graterol was called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City to fill the spot. ... OF Zach Reks was recalled from Triple-A with RHP Yefry Ramírez being optioned.
Max Scherzer (8-4, 2.76 ERA) makes his Dodgers debut after the right-hander was acquired in a blockbuster trade with the Washington Nationals last Friday. Houston counters with RHP Jake Odorizzi (4-5, 4.30).